Summer Student Jobs


That first summer job is an important step toward independence. It’s how kids learn what’s expected of them in a professional environment, try out potential career paths and get a handle on budgeting money they’ve earned themselves, deciding whether they’ll spend it on movie nights with their besties or stash it away toward a big goal — an iPhone, a car, their college fund.

What Job Can I Get?

The National Fair Labor Standards Act stipulates the type of work teens can do depending on their age.

Age 13 or younger: May not work at a non-agricultural job and so must be entrepreneurial. Think about jobs in and around the neighborhood…
• Babysitting
• Dog walking
• Lawn care
• Tutor
Advertise your services door-to-door via flyer.

Age 14-15: May work in an office, restaurant, retail or other professional environment. Obtain working papers through the high school guidance office. Kids in this age range may work:
• 3 hours on a school day
• 8 hours on a non-school day
• 40 hours during a non-school week
• Hours between 7am and 9pm, June 1 through Labor Day

Age 16-17: There’s no limit on hours, but those under 18 can’t work in a job that the Labor Department deems “hazardous,” typically jobs entailing use of heavy machinery or vehicles.


For many teenagers, finding a summer job can be challenging. Seasonal jobs once dominated by young people — at fast food restaurants, say, or movie theaters — have been filled by older workers, casualties of the recent recessionary shakedown. In fact, data released by the U.S. Department of Labor in January 2014 show that the current national youth unemployment rate is more than triple that of the national unemployment rate, 20.2 percent to 6.7 percent. 

Summer job-search challenges

Seventeen-year-old Kaylee Horchack of New Jersey knows all too well how tough it is to find a summer job; she’s been looking for one since the beginning of March. “It is difficult to find summer work because most employers want employees who can be dedicated year-round,” she says. She’s also finding that there seem to be “more teens looking for jobs than there are job opportunities.” 

Fifteen-year-old Tiana Gibbs-Booker of Delaware agrees. Her job search, she says, has been “very difficult, because a lot of employers are not hiring young people with little or no experience.” Her prospects improved after she applied to the City of Wilmington’s Summer Youth Employment Program, a paid eight-week program that teaches teens 14 to 18 job-search skills (résumé writing, interview prep) before they’re placed in a variety of summer jobs.

Next page: The ideal teen employee and the minimum wage in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey


Where teens can get job experience

Today’s teens are looking for jobs in a wide range of places — fast food and sit-down restaurants, pools, retail stores, warehouses, day care centers, camps, theme parks, bowling alleys, you name it, says Zalphia Wilson-Hill, EdD, a guidance counselor at Clearview Regional High School in Mullica Hill, NJ. Young people who have access to a car have greater mobility and, therefore, more options.

What’s the Minimum Wage?

Most teens can expect to start working for minimum wage (as of June 1, 2014).
DE: $7.75; NJ: $8.25; PA: $7.25

Most shops and restaurants that hire hourly workers accept résumés and hire on a rolling basis, so teens can drop in at any time and ask to speak to a manager who can set up an interview. Area high school guidance offices can help students find job leads and fill out the working papers required by many employers. And websites like and, which specialize in promoting hourly wage jobs, allow kids to search for employment specifically geared to summer work, often placed by companies that cultivate teen staffers (think Five Below).

For those who can’t find paid work, Wilson-Hill suggests “looking for things that are not money-generating,” internships and volunteer opportunities at hospitals, senior centers or animal shelters. Such “life experiences” help build a résumé and can be just as impressive as a paid job to future employers.

The ideal teen employee

Fifteen years ago, MK’s “Teens for Hire” (May 1999) article noted that: “Thousands of young job hopefuls violate some of the basic rules of interview and in the process, kill their chances of landing the jobs they’re seeking.”

A teen’s best bet toward getting hired says Wilson-Hill, is to have a “strong academic profile. Employers want students who do well in school, have good attendance and a strong work ethic.” Additionally, “We evaluate an applicant’s interpersonal skills, as all positions have a guest service focus,” says Dawn Reidenbach, VP of human resources at Sesame Place in Langhorne, PA.

Morey’s Piers amusement park in Wildwood, NJ looks for teens who are not only enthusiastic but also have a great attitude and a willingness to learn. “As a company, we have found it beneficial to hire for attitude, as we can train the teen on the specific duties of the job,” says admissions and human resource manager Trish Lyons. “Teens should be professional,” she continues. “We believe how they communicate with us is a direct indication of how they will communicate with our guests.” 

Cheryl Lynne Potter is a freelance writer from South Jersey.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here